Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Sunday, November 13, 2011
A while back, my good friend from culinary school, Bridgid, invited a bunch of us over for dinner. We try to do this every couple of months, but when you're contending with some crazy schedules, you'll take what you can get. Somehow, I was nominated to bring dessert. What the hell do you make for a bunch of pastry chefs - something obnoxious!
I've always been intrigued by bouche de Noels. Also known as a Yule Log cake, they are typically made up of a sponge cake with some basic filling and rolled. It is then covered with brown frosting and decorated with a wood grain so that it resembles a tree stump. It is often garnished with edible leaves and meringue mushrooms and is a traditional holiday dessert served in France.
Of course I had to top it with a sprig of sugarpaste holly.
The picture below is a plated version of the dessert that was used for testing the flavor combinations. The only component not pictured is the chocolate glaze.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Monday, September 19, 2011
Feels like it's been forever since I've blogged. I guess it has been. Unfortunately, by the time I get out of work and do everything I have to do, I don't have time for recreational baking! :(
Anyway, Emma tells me one day that she is upgrading her ice cream machine. I think she is crazy, but she offers me her "old one" so who am I to complain! ;) Her new machine is a monster and takes up half her counter space! (For those of you who do not know Emma, to say she loves to make ice cream is the biggest understatement.) So, when I finally had some free time to cook, I knew I had to try this bad boy out!
I noticed that figs were on sale at work and couldn't pass them by. I've loved figs for as long as I can remember. I used to eat them right off my grandmother's fig tree when she lived in Brooklyn and then when my Aunt Anna would harvest them and hand them out in egg cartons. Delicious! Naturally, I decided to make some fig sorbet.
It's been a while since I last made sorbet so I wanted to look for a recipe online. I couldn't find one that I really liked so I decided to throw caution to the wind and make up my own recipe. Typically, sorbets are just fruit puree and simple syrup. However, since figs have a mild flavor, I knew I wanted to use a complimetary flavor to give the sorbet some demension. The two flavors that came to mind were balsamic vinegar and merlot. The vinegar sounded a bit too aggressive for this, so I chose the latter.
I cut up the figs and tossed them into the merlot and added some sugar and a vanilla bean. I brought it to a boil and let the figs steep in the boozy goodness. After it cooled I pureed the mixture until smooth, ran it through a stainer and churned it.
Aside from the deafening noise, the machine is awesome! The sorbet came out good, too. I wish I had added a drop more sugar -to improve both the taste and the texture. Sorbet bases need to have the perfect amount of sugar content to come out just right. It is hard to tell if you have the correct amount of sugar unless you have a tool called a refractometer. This device is used to measure sugar density. Had I had one, my sorbet would have come out perfect - so I got one! Until next time...
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
So, instead of telling you about something yummy I've made (Hopefully I'll have something good for next weekend!) I figured I'd tell you about my latest meal...
Tonight I went to dinner at Del Posto with my good friend and cake partner, Emma, and her hubby Chris. It was delish! I had actually trailed at Del Posto while still in school. (A trail is sort of a hands on interview. You go and work an unpaid day at a restaurant to make sure you like the food, the job, and most importantly, the people.) Let's just say, at the time, it wasn't for me.
Emma had her friend - the Pastry Sous Chef - make us a reservation. When we walked in, we were very well taken care of. We were escorted to our table and were given an amuse before we even received a menu. The amuse consisted of a lobster and caviar toast (Chris ate mine. There was no way I was going near that!), pickled cabbage wrapped in prosciutto, and what I'll call a bruschetta shooter.
We finally received a menu and chose to do a tasting. Emma and I started our meal with a primavera salad while Chris chose the calamari. The presentation of the salad was like a canvas - a boutique of herbs, lettuces, flowers and vegetables with a pea puree, lemon and goat's milk ricotta dressing.
Then they brought out bread. Rut roh. i don't even want to think about how much bread I consumed. All homemade, they were pretty tasty - Mini baguette, lemon-thyme focaccia, olive ciabatta and pine-nut multi seed roll. As if that weren't enough, they were accompanied by imported Italian butter and a housemade lardo flavored with roasted garlic.
Next came the pastas which I will have dreams about for days to come. We started off with a ricotta filled ponsoti (think tortellini meets ravioli) with green and white asparagus and black truffle butter sauce. Sigh. Because one pasta is never enough, we then had Garganelli verdi (think penne but hand rolled) in a classic bolognese sauce. I had to restrain myself from licking the plate.
Our entrees came next. Emma went with the Halibut, Chris with Rib-Eye and I was adventurous (for me, at least) and had breaded, baked veal stuffed with broccoli rabe and fontina cheese served in a jus. Two thumbs up, definitely.
By this time I was stuffed. This also happened to be the time that our server asked us permission to have the pastry chefs choose our desserts for us. We had no clue what to expect. Being that it was recently Chris' birthday, they brought out a chocolate cake decorated with berries, chocolate and edible flowers for him to take home. The cake was replaced with a dessert amuse - salted cashew ice cream with orange zest and olive oil. I wanted a pint to take home. It tasted like a salty creamsicle with cashews.
Then we were each served a plated dessert. Emma had celery sorbet with figs in a balsamic glaze and breadcrumb coated goat cheese mousse. Chris was served Strawberry gelato with strawberries and pea cakes (I think!?) I was given lemon cake with slow-roasted nectarine and basil ice cream. Very good.
Then came "the cheese grater" It is basically a cheese grater with petite fours. We had little toffee pops, bomboloni filled with citrus pastry cream, a tartlette, dehydrated grapefruit and caramel candy.
Just when I was about to throw up, Roger brought out a chocolate tree. Basically, a hunk of chocolate decorated with... chocolates.
Can't wait to do this again!
Friday, June 10, 2011
Anyone who knows my good friend Lindsay knows she's a Harry Potter fanatic! A few weeks before her birthday I told her that I would take care of her cake because I wanted to make her something fun! Well, because I couldn't find pipettes (you may have noticed my begging for help on facebook!) I wasn't able to make them in time for her birthday.
I wanted to use the Butterbeer that is served in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios as a reference. Basically, it's a cream soda with a underwhipped, butterscotch flavored cream on top. I made a buttery vanilla cake and topped it with a butterscotch whipped topping. This is where the pipettes come in. I filled them with cream soda.
To eat, remove the pipette and squirt the soda into your mouth and chase it with a big bite of cupcake and frosting.
It was magical..... touche.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
My first stop was Germany. I flew into Frankfurt on a cold, snowy day and discovered that it was very commercial. This was slightly disappointing. However, after speaking with the concierge, I was given directions to a quaint part of the city known as Romerberg. It was an adorable square with some shops, a few restaurants and a bakery. Of course I had to try something. The bakery was very small. There was a counter filled with all different treats, each with its own little sign saying what it was. I looked for the most "German-looking" thing and came across Bienenstich. Bienenstick, or "Bee sting cake," is a dense cake (some may even say sweet bread) with a thin layer of honeyed almonds and filled with a whipped cream or vanilla custard.
Bienenstich from the bakery in Romerburg
The bottom layer with the honey-almond caramel
My finished version of Bienenstich
The Bienenstich in Romerburg was filled with whipped cream. I finally came across a recipe that looked right to me - and boy was it dead on! I prepared the cake batter and got the two layers into the oven. While it was baking, I made a caramel with some honey, sugar, butter and heavy cream. When the caramel was done, vanilla and almonds are stirred in. The almond mixture is then spread onto the bottom layer of the cake and baked some more. After the cake is cooled, I made a not-too-sweet whipped cream and piped it onto the layer with the almonds. The other half is placed on top and then sprinkled with some confectioner's sugar.
I brought this to my aunt's house and it was a hit. I'll definitely be making this again.
To achieve a salted caramel buttercream, I made a salted caramel sauce. This is where things can get tricky. I like an American style caramel - think Milk Duds (so much for quality, eh?) I think most people like this kind of caramel but that's probably because it's what people are used to. Then there's the other caramel - it's usually a dark copper color and has a bitter aftertaste. Because Emma prefers this type, I decided to compromise and meet half way. Plus, I feel the salt goes better with a darker caramel.
I paired the salted caramel buttercream with out moist chocolate cake and garnished it with some salted caramel sauce and a sprinkling of Maldon sea salt. Yum!
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
There were only a few ingredients to her recipe - artichokes, garlic, chicken broth, salt, lemon, pepper, mint and parsley. I'm not a mint person, so I skipped it. My only suggestion would be to hit it with a splash of freshly squeezed lemon and ground pepper right before serving.
Here's the recipe...
4 whole large artichokes Globe or Romanesco if available
Juice of two lemons
1/4 cup fresh chopped mint
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
2 large cloves garlic, minced
Three cups of chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Remove the tough outer leaves of the artichokes.
Use a vegetable peeler to trim the outer layer of the stems.
Cut the artichokes in half lengthwise
Place in pan. Add chicken broth, salt, parsley, mint and garlic and cook until tender.
Remove from pan, scoop out chokes.
Serve warm with cooking juices.
As seen in Program 21o1
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Sunday, April 24, 2011
As obnoxious as I am, I prefer simple flavors and presentation. I tend to go for something more rustic than fru-fru and my menu reflects that.
I decided to try out my chocolate dish on Easter knowing I'd have a full house of people to use as guinea pigs! The dish I created is a chocolate trio - Dark Chocolate Souffle, Milk Chocolate Creme Brulee and White Chocolate Gelato.
The Creme Brulee...
I know I said I'm into simple presentation - and I really am - but this is probably slightly obnoxious. I recently bought myself an egg topper (an apparatus that allows you to take the top off an egg with a straight edge) and was dying to use it. I prepared the custard for the creme brulee and baked it in the hollowed shells. (FYI - they are a bitch to clean!) I used beans to keep the eggs upright when baking and cooling. I really enjoyed making these. Due to the high chocolate content, the texture was in between that of a traditional creme brulee and a mousse - which I liked.
I actually like white chocolate and was very excited about this component. I used a recipe from one of my favorite gelato and sorbet cookbooks, Ciao Bella. I am not going to lie, I was not thrilled with the recipe. I am angry at myself for following it so literally when I had a hunch that I wouldn't love it. I found it too eggy and had to tweak the recipe to make it more to my taste. When the gelato was almost finished churning, I drizzled in some melted bittersweet chocolate to add some more texture and chocolaty goodness. I garnished the gelato with some lemon confit. I was skeptical to do this at first but, I am so glad that I did. The citrus cut through the sweetness of the gelato and it was delish! The tweaked recipe is at the end of the post.
I feel that people expect to see a souffle on a restaurant menu and I don't want to disappoint. Not only was I going to try a new recipe, I also haven't made one since culinary school so I was not sure what to expect. It was relatively easy to make. I prepared a pastry cream-like base and folded in chocolate, butter and a french meringue. I wasn't thrilled with the rise and the look of the souffle (I didn't fill the ramekin high enough) but the taste was dead on. It had everything that I look for in a souffle - soft, decadent and a slightly gooey in the middle. Great success!
Here is what the finished plate looked like. I think this one is a keeper and can't wait for you guys to try it when I open my restaurant!
White Chocolate Gelato with Bittersweet Chocolate Drizzle
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
6 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped (use a quality chocolate, not in a chip version)
1/2 tsp high-end vanilla extract or seeds from half a bean
1/4 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
3 ounces of melted bittersweet chocolate
Combine the milk, cream and vanilla in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolk yolks with the sugar until they lighten in color. As soon as the milk mixture comes to a simmer, remove it from the heat and, while whisking, slowly pour it into the egg mixture to temper the eggs. When both mixtures are combined, return to the sauce pan. Add the white chocolate and whisk it into the egg/milk mixture. On a low heat, gently stir the mixture (with a wooden spoon) until it begins to thicken and it coats the back of the spoon (about 185 degrees.) Be sure not to over cook the mixture or the eggs will scramble!
Pour the custard through a fine strainer into a bowl set up with an ice bath. Stir to cool down the custard and then pour it into a container and refrigerate overnight.
Process the gelato base in an ice cream machine and follow manufacturer's instructions on how to churn. When the gelato is nearly finished, drizzle the melted bittersweet chocolate in a fine stream. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until ready to use.
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Friday, April 1, 2011
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Sunday, March 13, 2011
There are TONS of pasta dough recipes out there, the most basic made with just water and flour. Aside from all these recipes, there are different types of flour that can be used, too - semolina, all purpose, whole wheat, etc. Then of course you can mix and match the flours but that's a whole other story.
I prefer to make an enriched dough. An enriched dough is one that has anything other than water, flour and salt (and yeast, depending on the type of dough.) My recipe of choice is Anne Burrell's pasta dough recipe. It is enriched with both eggs and olive oil.
Here's the recipe. Any added notes are in blue text!
1 pound all-purpose flour
4 whole eggs, plus 1 yolk (use local, organic eggs if possible for this recipe)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 to 2 tablespoons water or more if needed
Using a fork beat the eggs together with the olive oil, water and salt. Using the fork, begin to incorporate the flour into the egg mixture; be careful not to break the sides of the well or the egg mixture will run all over your board and you will have a big mess! Also, don't worry about the lumps. When enough flour has been incorporated into the egg mixture that it will not run all over the place when the sides of the well are broken, begin to use your hands to really get everything well combined. If the mixture is tight and dry, wet your hands and begin kneading with wet hands. When the mixture has really come together to a homogeneous mixture, THEN you can start kneading. (At this point - before kneading- wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes at room temperature. This will make the kneading process easier!)
When kneading it is VERY important to put your body weight into it, get on top of the dough to really stretch it and not to tear the dough. Using the heels of your palms, roll the dough to create a very smooooooth, supple dough. When done the dough should look VERY smooth and feel almost velvety. Kneading will usually take from 8 to 10 minutes for an experienced kneader and 10 to 15 for an inexperienced kneader. Put your body weight into it, you need to knead! This is where the perfect, toothsome texture of your pasta is formed. Get in there and have fun!
When the pasta has been kneaded to the perfect consistency, wrap it in plastic and let rest for at least 1 hour. If using immediately do not refrigerate. (This dough will hold in the fridge for a few days. When you're ready to use the dough, remove from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour.)
Roll and cut the pasta into desired shape. (A traditional hand-powered pasta maker is typically capable of making linguine or spaghetti. You can also purchase an extruder attachment for a Kitchen Aid to make tubular shaped pasta. Toss the freshly shaped pasta in all purpose flour or semolina flour to keep them from sticking. Before cooking the pasta, shake off the excess flour. I find that gently tossing the pasta in a strainer works well. Pasta can be shaped and then frozen, but I prefer to make the pasta on the day that I cook it. You can also make the pasta earlier in the day and then just keep it in the fridge until you're ready to use it. Just toss the pasta occasionally with your hands to make sure it doesn't stick together!)
Monday, March 7, 2011
I've been waiting for a good reason to make it, so today, I whipped one up to celebrate my cousin, Tracy's, $%*@!# birthday. (She's officially too old for me to post her age.)
The cake itself is amazing. It is like a kicked up boxed cake. Now, being a trained pastry chef one would think I'd be anti-cake mix, but I am not. So many people love it that it doesn't pay to try to convince them otherwise. Therefore, I try to use recipes that are close enough to what people are used to but are made from scratch and use better ingredients. After you make the batter, which has cocoa powder and melted chocolate in it, you stir in chopped chocolate so that when it bakes it gets all nice and fudgy.
The frosting is just a simple Italian meringue, which is my favorite meringue. A splash of homemade vanilla extract flavors it and then it's ready to be eaten - I mean used to frost the cake...
For the cake
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1/2 cup buttermilk or whole milk, at room temperature
1/2 cup boiling water
4 ounces semisweet or milk chocolate, finely chopped, or 2/3 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips
For the filling and frosting
1/2 cup egg whites (about 4 large)
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
GETTING READY: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-x-2-inch round cake pans, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess and line the bottoms with parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.
TO MAKE THE CAKE: Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugars and continue to beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla; don't be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the melted chocolate. When it is fully incorporated, add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, adding the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients); scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter. At this point, the batter will be thick, like frosting. Still working on low speed, mix in the boiling water, which will thin the batter considerably. Switch to a rubber spatula, scrape down the bowl and stir in the chopped chocolate. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and smooth the tops with the rubber spatula.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pans at the midway point. When fully baked, the cakes will be springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the centers will come out clean. Don't worry if the tops have a few small cracks. Transfer the cake pans to a rack and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up. (The cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.)
When you are ready to fill and frost the cake, inspect the layers. If the cakes have crowned, use a long serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to even them. With the same knife, slice each layer horizontally in half. Set 3 layers aside and crumble the fourth layer; set the crumbs aside.
TO MAKE THE FILLING AND FROSTING: Put the egg whites in a clean, dry mixer bowl or in another large bowl. Have a candy thermometer at hand.
Put the sugar, cream of tartar and water in a small saucepan and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, cover the pan and boil for 3 minutes. Uncover and allow the syrup to boil until it reaches 242 degrees F on the candy thermometer. While the syrup is cooking, start beating the egg whites.
When the syrup is at about 235 degrees F, begin beating the egg whites on medium speed with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer. If the whites form firm, shiny peaks before the syrup reaches temperature, reduce the mixer speed to low and keep mixing the whites until the syrup catches up. With the mixer at medium speed, and standing back slightly, carefully pour in the hot syrup, pouring it between the beater(s) and the side of the bowl. Splatters are inevitable — don't try to scrape them into the whites, just carry on. Add the vanilla extract and keep beating the whites at medium speed until they reach room temperature, about 5 minutes. You should have a smooth, shiny, marshmallowy frosting. Although you could keep it in the fridge in a pinch, it's really better to use it right now.
TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE: Put a bottom layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or on a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. Using a long metal icing spatula, cover the layer generously with frosting. Top with a second layer, cut side up, and frost it. Finish with the third layer, cut side down, and frost the sides and top of the cake. Don't worry about smoothing the frosting — it should be swirly. Now, cover the entire cake with the chocolate cake crumbs, gently pressing the crumbs into the filling with your fingers.
Refrigerate the cake for about 1 hour before serving. (If it's more convenient, you can chill the cake for 8 hours or more; cover it loosely and keep it away from foods with strong odors.)
SERVING: I think the cake is best at room temperature or just cool, but many people prefer it cold (the texture of the cake becomes fudgier after it has been refrigerated). No matter the temperature, the cake is so pretty it should be cut at the table, so bring it out on a platter and cut it into generous wedges using a serrated knife and a sawing motion.
STORING: The frosted cake can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days; let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving, or longer if you have the time.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
First of all, in case you live under a rock and don;t know what Nutella is - it's a creamy chocolate hazelnut spread. It can be found near the peanut butter in pretty much every grocery store. When I was in France, Nutella was EVERYWHERE! No, seriously. They even sold it in individual servings with dipping sticks. I was never really a fan until I had a crepe with the spread and bananas. I can almost taste it now...
I did have a problem. I couldn't find hazelnuts in the local grocery store. I wasn't about to search the island for hazelnuts so I decided to find an alternative. I came across some macadamia nuts and grabbed them.
Anyway, the recipe is fairly simple. Roast the hazelnuts with a small amount of almonds until lightly brown. Meanwhile, I melted two different chocolates (milk and semi-sweet) over a double boiler. While the chocolate is melting, bring some milk, milk powder and honey to a boil. When the nut are a soft brown, remove them from the oven and put them into a food processor. Process the nuts until they form a paste. (When you process hot nuts, they'll make a paste. When you process cold/room temperature nuts, they'll make a flour.) Add the chocolate and mix and then the milk mixture and process until everything is well combined.
That's it. (Unless you want to strain it to remove any nut particles. I didn't bother because I liked the texture.) It goes into mason jars and straight into the fridge where it will set into a perfect consistency for spreading.
Taste-wise, this version was a little more earthy and rustic. I am going to save some to compare with a batch made with the hazelnuts.
Time for a sandwich!
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Monday, February 21, 2011
Sunday, February 13, 2011
After setting up some more mise en place trays and shredding duck (gross), I got to work along side the students making extra items for the buffet line. The theme was brunch. The menu...
The people I worked with were very nice. Everyone helped each other out and, therefor, everything ran smoothly. It was fun helping the students get through their recipes. I think I'd really enjoy teaching culinary arts.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
I'm not going to lie, the first two crepes came out horrible, but, by the third crepe I had figured out the best way to spread the batter, loosen the edges and flip the crepe. We filled them with the compote. It was pretty good, but not exactly the flavor profile that brought me back to a street in St. Germaine. That's where we brought in the nutella and banana - another popular choice. Ding, ding! We have a winner!